Strong emotions sweep into us with energy. It’s up to us to use that energy – that passion – wisely.

If we refuse to feel our emotions, the energy stays around inside our bodies. Like oil turning rancid, it can sour into depression or aggression. I have certainly traveled those dark roads.

If we recognize our emotions – feeling them and the energy they bring in our bodies – then we can choose our next steps. We can bring them to the pages of a journal or talk to a friend. Wrapping them in words somehow sets them free.

Emotions can also be a call for change. Sometimes anger or sadness is a recognition of injustice. When rights are being violated or wrong is being perpetrated, our emotional responses bring the energy we need to take action.

When you notice that others are affected by the situation and come alongside them to effect change, that is advocacy. The word “advocacy” takes its meaning from the Latin “vocare,” which means to speak for someone.

Questions to ponder

To be a courageous advocate, you can ask these questions:

What need(s) is (are) not being met? Whom does this affect? [Define the problem; gather the facts; identify stakeholders.]

Who is already working on the situation? [Find allies.]

What actions need to be taken and by whom? [Describe solutions; determine decision-makers and influencers]

Methods of advocacy

When it comes to speaking up, there are more private or public ways to influence stakeholders and decision-makers.

Private: Writing letters, sending email messages, making phone calls

Public: making speeches, writing articles, sending fact sheets, organizing events, meeting with decision-makers

Making it Courageous

Brené Brown is my favorite expert on vulnerability and courage. She summarizes her work this way:

Be you.

Be all in.

Fall. Get up. Try again.

To apply that to advocacy:

Feel your emotions. Tell your story with passion.

Stand in your truth. Work for solutions.

Fall. Get up. Try again.

Speaking up and acting out aren’t guaranteed to change the world. They will transform you. Telling your story and standing up for solutions you believe are right will open your heart and make it sing.


8 Key Steps in Advocacy

10 Steps to Effective Self-Advocacy (from Disability Rights Florida)